Small Parish Reaching Out To a Larger World

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, a small parish nestled in the hills of Raywick, KY has reached out in service to a larger world thanks to the initiative of Father Jim Graf, pastor, and Sister Luke Boiarski, Director of Volunteers for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.


Last year, Father Jim and three of his parishioners, Butch Cecil, J.C. Detherage, and Ed Clan and nine other volunteers from around the states traveled to Belize to participate in the SCN Belize Immersion Program. The men and women built a home for a single mother, Sandra and her family, through the Building for Change Program of Hand in Hand Ministries.

“I am so grateful to all of you and I humbly accept this house on behalf of my family. My dream has come true. This is the first time I’ve owned my own home. I will do my best to take care of it. This house was built with love, laughter and hard work. Thanks to all who donated money and labor,” said Sandra.

Since then parishioners continued to reach out to the needy. This past November, Butch Cecil, parish council president at St. Francis Xavier, along with six other volunteers, traveled to Anapra, Mexico, a small village outside of Juarez, to work at the Santo Nino Project established by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. This project assists children that have special health care needs such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy and autism. While there, the volunteers assisted with the children and also built storage space for the clinic. The remaining time they repaired the home of a woman in Horizon City, Texas by installing insulation and hanging drywall for painting.

“I think this volunteer experience gave our group a broader vision of the immigration issue,” said Sister Luke. “The residents of these border towns have so many things to deal with, “the destitution, desperation, desolate surroundings and the violence.”

In January, nine parishioners: Georgia Clan, Peggy Downs, Trudy and Wayne Wheatley, Butch Cecil, Jude Leake, Ronnie Mattingly, Brian Jones, along with Father Jim and Sister Luke, answered the call to reach out and assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. The group lived at Mater Delorosa, a senior citizen housing complex. They slept on air mattresses and cots but were treated to wonderful home cooked meals at the home of a local family.

While one group worked on restoring electricity to the home of Skip Negan whose house has been without electricity for almost four years, the other group was building a garage for Emmanuel Augustine so he could store his possessions properly and keep them from further damage. Both Skip and Emmanuel found it hard to hold back their feelings of gratitude for the men and women of St. Francis who gave so much of their time, energy and talent to travel to New Orleans. “I only could have dreamed of someone coming to help me,” said Skip.

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Finally, this past April, four parishioners: Ed and Rose Clan, J.C. and Susan Detherage, joined eight others in answering the call to assist the needy in working with Hand in Hand ministries in the Appalachia region of Kentucky. They repaired a home for an elderly gentleman and laid tile kitchen flooring for another couple. Some of the volunteers also did cleaning at both homes.

The level of commitment and the vision of St. Francis Xavier Parish to reach out to the larger world is to be commended. This is a relatively small group of generous people who do such phenomenal ministry. Their continuing unselfish efforts are truly making a difference in the world, helping to make dreams come true for others.

If you or your parish would like to know more about volunteering visit the Ways to Help page.

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